For all the roster uncertainty swirling about the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors amid respective teamwide COVID-19 outbreaks, both teams can attest to at least one thing.
DeMar DeRozan continues to excel behind a sterling midrange game.
A former Raptor who now stars as the Bulls’ leading scorer, DeRozan will aim to keep his recent roll going when Chicago hosts Toronto on Wednesday night.
After missing three games due to league COVID-19 protocols, DeRozan scored 38 and 26 points to key respective home victories against the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets on Sunday and Monday.
He did much of his damage in the midrange, from which he is shooting 50 percent in the fourth quarter this season.
“Some of the greatest players won with the midrange, the in-between,” DeRozan said. “I always felt like if you master a craft at any spot on the floor, and become dominant at it, defenses gotta react to you. (Shaquille O’Neal) didn’t shoot midrange jump shots, but he was so dominant where he was at, that’s what he was great at. And you got Steph Curry, what he’s great at, (but) everybody can’t be a Steph Curry. Everybody can’t be a midrange dominant player. But for me, the way I just grew up idolizing the game of basketball, old-school guys.”
DeRozan remains a stabilizing force for a Bulls team with six players in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols, including All-Star Zach LaVine.
Chicago also lost veteran Alex Caruso to a sprained left foot in the first quarter of the Houston game, with the severity of the injury not immediately known.
The Raptors know about safety and health protocols and injury, as well.
Toronto has seven players sidelined with pandemic-related absences, adding Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, Malachi Flynn and Fred VanVleet to the list of cases on Tuesday, according to an ESPN report.
A scheduled three-game homestand ultimately furnished just one game, a 119-100 win against Golden State on Saturday, the team’s fifth victory in its past seven contests.
Thursday’s game against the Bulls was postponed due to COVID concerns within Chicago’s organization. On Monday, the Raptors’ own COVID issues forced a postponement of a game with Orlando.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse has tried to stress flexibility throughout the season, whether the roster is depleted due to COVID-19, injuries or personal reasons.
“We’ve been going through this pretty much from the start of the year,” Nurse said. “… Seems like we add two, lose two, it’s been going on all year.
“Just plug ‘em in there, there’s not much to be said other than step in and start playing and, really, what I’m stressing is let’s perform, let’s get solid and execute our defensive stuff, the foundational stuff and let’s share the basketball and just try to get as much chemistry and fluidity together as we can. It’s pretty much constant in and out.”
Chicago edged host Toronto 111-108 on Oct. 25, with DeRozan scoring 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls have won four straight against the Raptors to take a 52-44 lead in the all-time series. The teams are slated to meet again in Chicago on March 21. A makeup date for Thursday’s postponement has yet to be announced.
–Field Level Media